Being a Single Woman and Dealing with a Bank or Credit Union

It’s hard enough being a single woman and trying to maintain a work/life balance. It’s even harder if you’re a caregiver to a child or an aging parent. Many women deal with low income and unemployment and we struggle to figure out what to do with any leftover money once our basic living expenses have been met.

Leftover money. Ha! Too many times we’re using a credit card to help pay our basic expenses.

The last thing we need are banks and credit unions making our lives even more difficult.

Banking can be overwhelming for single women. Avoidance is the easier option. I can tell you all about that!

We want to learn how to invest what little money we have in order to make a little more money. We also don’t want to lose the precious money we have. A savings account earning less than 1% interest isn’t going to sock away extra money for us.

We have a better chance of a higher return on our investment in the stock market, but we fear the value of the stocks we purchase going down. Yeah, a sure sign that a stock is going to drop in price is because I just bought some shares in it!

Make sure you check out my article on stocks I wish I hadn’t bought.

Stocks I Wish I hadn’t BoughtWe could lose our money to a scammer. Not all scammers are online dating romance scammers if you’re in the dating market. Some scams come from pyramid schemes and MLM scams and usually you’ll get pitched by someone you already know and trust.

Just be smart with your money. Research any MLM you’ve been pitched on. Research stocks before buying them. And for sure, don’t send money to someone you’ve never met.

Now that you’ve set up a bank account and have a chequing (checking) and saving account and a debit card, what else should you know about your bank? What else can they do for you? Or do to you. Yikes! Fees! Expensive financial products! It’s time to be a smart customer of bank products.

Financial advisors

It’s free to book an appointment with the bank’s financial advisor. Right now Coast Capital is bugging me to come in for a free financial review. Sometimes they hold contests and everyone who books a review can win $1,000. I’m more inclined to book a review or fill out their surveys if there’s a possible reward involved.

Yes! I won a $50 Amazon gift card from Coast Capital this past summer.

Maybe you go in and say to the financial advisor you want to pay off your debt or learn how to budget, and you could get some good advice and ideas you hadn’t thought of. They might have suggestions on estate planning and wills. You don’t have to take the advice, but a bank’s financial advisor can be one of the places you go to collect information. Maybe you like the suggestions, but you want to take your money elsewhere to implement them. That’s OK too.

You’re going to discover something. Financial advisors aren’t too interested in dealing with single women. Yeah, sure, it could be gender bias. It probably has more to do with their commission. Single women usually don’t have a lot of money to invest = lower commission for the financial advisor and bank/credit union.

When I started doing more research on how I can get a better return on my money and not spend a lot of money doing so, something became really clear to me. I can manage my money better than my financial advisor.

Nobody cares more about my money than I do.

Get a sticky and write that down and slap it on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself.

Being a Single Woman and Dealing with a Bank or Credit Union

Nobody cares more about my money than I do.

Safety deposit box

One of the things your bank or credit union can offer is a safety deposit box rental. They come in different sizes and fees. I keep a safety deposit box at Coast Capital that costs me about $70/year. This amount is deducted from my chequing account on January 1 each year.

This is a place to keep valuable items that you don’t necessarily want to keep in your house – in case of fire or theft. My safety deposit box is something I rarely access. Two years ago, maybe three, I went in and took some photos of the contents. They came out kind of fuzzy. I suppose I should go back and take better photos. You know me. Avoidance.

I used to keep the deed to my house in my safety deposit box. My mother’s jewellery is in there and some old coins.

Ironically, the deadbeat left two rings that belonged to his father inside the safety deposit box. He forgot about them. I think the next time I go to the safety deposit box I’ll take them out and find somewhere to sell them. If they’re worth anything. I kind of doubt it. If they had any value I think his old man would have pawned them before he died.

My father kept his will and birth certificate in his safety deposit box, a couple of old dollar bills, my mother’s death certificate, and some old stock certificates that had no value.

Don’t leave your passport in your safety deposit box. Keep it in your house. What are the chances your passport will get stolen? A thief is more interested in stealing your cash and valuables. The odds are higher you’ll forget your passport is at the bank and remember on Sunday morning for your flight later that day. And oops the bank is closed today.

If you have anything in your house that you’re concerned about, that has value and is small enough to fit in a safety deposit box, for your peace of mind, get one.

Set up an emergency fund

In Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, he recommends people scrimp and save until they have $1,000 in their emergency fund. That’s the first step in his money makeover program.

(Disclosure: I’m an Amazon associate and if you click the link for the book and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission for the referral.)

There are a lot of financial advisors out there who’ve written books. Not all their advice is going to work for everyone. Take what works for you and leave the rest. I already talked about Dave Ramsey and his snowball method for crushing debt in a previous post.

Setting up an emergency fund was another takeaway from Dave Ramsey as part of becoming financially independent. This is our goal as single women. To become as financially independent as best we can within limited means.

Start with a $1,000 emergency fund. And then don’t touch it unless there’s an emergency! That means the car broke down or some other calamity.

Once you have that $1,000 emergency fund set up, then Dave Ramsey tells his readers to work on the debt snowball.

When you open up an account at a bank or credit union, open a savings account and name it “emergency fund”. You need to be able to access it fairly quickly in case there is an emergency. I don’t recommend keeping your emergency fund at an online bank where it will take a few days to transfer the money to your bricks and mortal financial institution. Unless of course, you’re at the stage where you’ve built a larger emergency fund. You’ll want it earning more interest than what you can get at your main financial institution, but I still recommend keeping a smaller emergency fund that you can access quickly if needed. I keep about $1,500 in my emergency fund at Coast Capital and about $10,000 with EQ Bank (online bank with 2.3% interest).

Edited to add:With the Covid-19, the Bank of Canada dropped their interest rates which affected EQ Bank to lower theirs to 2% and then 1.5%. That’s still a better deal than any other financial institution! If you’re considering opening an account that will make you more money in interest, you can get $20 if you open a new account at EQ Bank. Click the banner below to read my article for more details.

New EQ Bank Customers get $20 Sign Up Bonus!

Short term investing

Investing your money in the short term is definitely something a bank’s financial advisor can give you suggestions on. That’s only if you actually have some money socked away for a down payment on a house or something where you don’t anticipate holding on to that money too long.

When you have a sum of money that you know you’re going to need sooner rather than later, maybe you even know the approximate date you’ll need it, you want to put it somewhere safe. That’s usually a saving account where it earns a paltry amount of interest, but is easy to access.

You might want to look into short term GICs. Maybe terms of 30 days or 90 days, even up to one year if that’s when you anticipate you’ll need the money. You can compare rates at other financial institutions before making a decision where to buy a GIC.

There are other types of higher risk short term investing you can do, but this post is only concentrating on financial products offered at banks.

Online banking

Here I’m not referring to an online bank. Though I absolutely recommend you have an online bank where you can keep special savings accounts so they can earn higher interest.

Most banks and credit unions have a place online for you to do your banking when you’re at home. This is where you can transfer money, pay bills, and generally keep an eye on what’s happening in your bank account. Most financial institutions don’t send out paper statements by mail. And if they do, they charge you a monthly service fee, so don’t sign up for that service!

You probably have to set up access to online banking while you’re in the branch signing up for your new account.

But yes, in this day and age, everyone needs access to their bank accounts online.

Banking app

Hopefully your financial institution has an app that you can use on your mobile phone. This can be useful if you have a cheque to deposit but can’t get to the branch right away. I’m pretty sure financial institutions place a hold of a few days when you snap a photo of your cheque and use the mobile app for a deposit. I’ve done it a couple of times when I’ve had a cheque in a small amount, say around $20 and that’s usually when I get a cheque in the mail from a company where I’ve filled out surveys.

Mutual funds

When you make an appointment with a financial advisor or planner at your financial institution, if that person finds out you have a few thousand dollars or more sitting in a savings account or you’re anticipating coming into a little bit of money soon, they’ll try to talk you into buying mutual funds.

Sure, listen to the financial advisor and see if they’ll let you take home a fact sheet about any particular mutual funds they’re recommending, but don’t commit yourself. Always ask about the MER – management expense ration. Mutual funds usually charge 2% or higher MER. Canadians pay the highest MERs in the world! Don’t get talked into buying mutual funds with their expensive MER. This is how banks make commission, with that high MER.

Mutual funds can go up in price and they can also go down.

Guess what else does that? Stocks!

If mutual funds interest you, take a look instead at exchange traded funds – ETF. They’re very similar. A fund made out of a group of companies. The difference is that ETFs are traded on the stock exchange, you can’t buy them through your bank’s financial advisor. The very big difference is that ETFs have very low MERs. Like .02% or .06%, maybe as high as.25%.

See my post about the incompetent buffoons at Worldsource where I break down these fees a bit and show how much money can be saved by avoiding mutual funds.


There can be a number of reasons you need to get a loan from your financial institution.

In another post where I talked about dealing with debt on a low income, I mentioned a debt consolidation loan. You make an appointment with a loans officer at your bank or credit union, bring in your current credit card statements and any other type of outstanding loans, and apply for a loan to cover all your debt. The advantages of doing this are a lower interest rate (probably) and you’re only making one monthly payment rather than several payments to different creditors.

You might have to buy a car and need a loan to help buy it. A lot of financial advisors recommend not taking out a car loan and instead buying whatever car you can afford from your savings. However, that’s not always possible especially if you don’t have enough savings. Or any savings at all. You want to drive a safe, reliable car. It doesn’t have to be the flashiest car around. Live within your means.

In my article about dealing with a rogue TD employee, I talk about taking a loan from TD Bank in 1993 when I bought a new truck. That’s the only new vehicle I’ve ever owned. We sold it in 2002 when we decided another make of truck would be safer for towing a horse trailer.

If you own your home, you might need a loan for renovations or unexpected repairs.

Maybe you need a student loan to go to school.

There are a few things I’d say you don’t need a loan for, and it’s better to save up your money instead. That would be vacations and toys to keep up with the Joneses.


The place where you do your daily banking might not be the same financial institution where you have your mortgage.

You always want to shop around for the best rates.

I’m not going to dwell too much on mortgages except to recommend you don’t get two things with your mortgage.

The first would be life insurance on the mortgage from your bank. They make about 40% commission on the life insurance they sell on your mortgage and it’s probably not anywhere near as good a deal as you can get buying life insurance from a broker. And yes, I definitely recommend you do get enough life insurance to pay off your mortgage if you’re in a relationship/co-owner of a house. If you pass away, coming up with mortgage payments is one less thing a grieving family member needs to deal with.

The second thing is – don’t have your bank set up to pay your city taxes. The bank will offer to add enough money to your mortgage payments to cover your city taxes. When the tax bill comes in, you take it into the bank and they’ll pay it. We got screwed by RBC when the City of Surrey split the city taxes and city utility bills into two separate bills. Previously the city taxes covered the whole thing in one annual statement payable each July. Then the utility portion got separated into its own tax that was payable in March or April (don’t remember ha ha!). We came in with the utility tax bill only to be told, nope we don’t pay that and ended up scrambling to find an extra $1500 by the due date.

Highly inconvenient! We cancelled the tax portion from our RBC mortgage.

After that we got on a monthly payment with the city, which I’d done before with a previous house. Automatic monthly payments were set up with the city and when the utility bill was due in the spring, it was paid, from the fund the city was holding from our payments. When the July tax bill came in, there was usually a small amount due like $100 or so. The city calculated 10 monthly withdrawals, so their calculations were usually slightly out, but affordably so. That $1,500 bill was the shocker wake up call.

It’s expensive owning a house in this part of the world. I sure can’t afford it anymore. All those combined city taxes were around $5,000/year. They’ll be much higher today!

Retirement plan loans

This type of loan is to top up your registered retirement savings plan. In Canada it’s called an RRSP. In the states it’s an IRA. I don’t recommend it unless there’s a financial benefit for you to take this loan out. If it looks like you’re going to pay a huge tax bill, that could be a reason to take out a retirement plan loan.

Here’s an article about Tangerine Bank’s “special offer” on a retirement plan loan.


The things I recommend women have at their bricks and mortar bank or credit union:

  • Checking (chequing) and savings account with enough to cover what you need and then some.
  • A debit card
  • Credit card – only if you really need one or another one for emergencies. The idea is to get out of debt.
  • Safety deposit box – if you need one
  • Access to online banking
  • Access to mobile phone app
  • GIC for short term investing (this can be where you keep your emergency fund if it’s cashable)
  • Loan or mortgage – if you need them.
Not good

Things I don’t recommend women have at their bank or credit union:

  • Account with monthly service fee
  • Mutual funds
  • Car loans (unless you don’t have enough savings for a safe car)
  • Loans for retirement plan account
  • Line of credit or overdraft protection (unless there’s a short term emergency with cash flow issues).
More reading:

What do Single Women need to know about Banking?Dreaded Bank FeesMy Financial Advisor at Coast Capital can’t Manage my Money better than MeAre Single Women mostly Ignored by Financial Experts?


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